The United Nations Human Rights Council officially declared that UDJ Chairperson W/t Birtukan Mideksa is among those prisoners who are arbitrarily arrested.
It is eighteen years now since EPRDF has been in power. Throughout these years, it has never ceased to preach about the rule of law and human rights. However, the preaching and the practice have never gone together. In fact, Ethiopia is known as one of the forefront countries where blatant violations of human rights are perpetrated. Although many examples could be cited, let us take Birtukan’s imprisonment as an example. She has been illegally imprisoned. We repeatedly notified the Addis Ababa City Administration of our wish to hold candle light vigils at the Meskel Square to commemorate our Chairperson’s illegal imprisonment. This is our right enshrined in the Constitution. But the City Administration has repeatedly denied us this right. Article 30 of the Constitution, guaranteeing citizens the right of assembly is repeatedly and blatantly violated. This clearly demonstrates that the EPRDF and one of its arms, the Addis Ababa City Administration, are making a mockery of the Constitution and the rule of law. The mockery does not stop here.
Particularly at this time–the eve of the coming election—human rights violations are being perpetrated by the ruling party. This is attested by the recent report of the international organization, Human Rights Watch. We cannot call public gatherings in Addis and meet with the people. We are in the process of selecting our candidates for the 2010 election but our prospective candidates are being targeted and imprisoned on fabricated charges. The law on Terrorism is being applied on them so that their cases could be processed quickly and they could be sent to prison fast, thus making them unable to register as candidates.
Even though the Ethiopian Government says that W/t Birtukan’s imprisonment has been according to the law, it is well known that she was imprisoned not even according to the law of pardon. The Government’s argument on the legality of Birtukan’s imprisonment could not convince its own members, let alone the rest of the Ethiopian people. The UN Human Rights Report published on 15 January 2010 has officially declared that Birtukan Mideksa is one of the people who are arbitrarily arrested and languishing in prison.
The fact that Birtukan’s imprisonment is seriously recognized at the level of the United Nations as being illegal is significant. This recognition shows that the Government’s effort to mislead the international community on how Birtukan’s imprisonment was according to the law has been in vain. However, this recognition by the United Nations is not enough by itself. We wish to take this opportunity to request the United Nations Human Rights Council to urge the Ethiopian Government to release W/t Birtukan immediately. It is recognized by all that such atrocity of arbitrary imprisonment committed anywhere is a serious threat to world peace. We also call on other governments and international institutions to use their good offices to keep urging the Ethiopian Government to release prisoners of conscience, including W/t Birtukan, who are found in prisons throughout the country.
The FORUM has made it known long in advance that it is making full preparations to participate in the coming election according to the law and with determination. However, there seem to be dangerous moves to push UDJ out of play on the pretext that it is not one of the signatories to the Code of Conduct. UDJ will proceed with its preparations in accordance with the law. It condemns any attempt to deny it of its legitimate rights on a pretext that it is not a member of a “club” created by the EPRDF.
We wish to take this opportunity to call upon the Ethiopian people to take this coming election as a precious chance for demonstrating their deep longing for freedom and democracy. Therefore, we urge them to come out in full force, register and prepare themselves for the crucial Election Day. Hungry, thirsty and oppressed people could have no legitimate reason to distance themselves from active involvement in politics.
The illegal imprisonment and mistreatment of our Chairperson, W/t Birtukan Mideksa, is a symbolic imprisonment and mistreatment of the entire population of Ethiopia. It is the manifestation of the repression of freedom and democracy. This is a matter of concern not only for Ethiopians but also for the rest of the international community.
UDJ will continue to pursue its course of peaceful endeavor to see our leader Birtukan Mideksa and other prisoners of conscience released and freedom and democracy become a reality in Ethiopia. We call upon the international community to stand on our side in the pursuit of this noble and common cause. It would be a serious mistake to believe that anyone’s interest could be protected in an environment where repression rules.
Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ)
28 January 2010